Just this morning I read an incredible blog post by Tyler Seamons on his website . He wrote about he journey away from the LDS Church and his journey to find the truth and to find God and how he ended up back in the LDS Church. I can relate so much to his experience and after reading it, I thought I would share my own, and tell you why I stay.
I was born and raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. My parents were also raised LDS, and both sets of grandparents are still members of the Church. As a child I never missed a Sunday--unless we were sick, traveling or some sort of emergency happened. We would stay for all 3 hours of church each time, and I would also attend weekly activities like Achievement Day Girls outings, or when I was 12, Young Womens Activities. My family was very involved in the Church, and I grew up with it being a very prevalent part of my life.
As I reach high-school, my testimony was tested and torn apart in many ways. I had grown up never really questioning if God was real or if the Church was true. I just accepted it as fact because it was all I had ever known, and I never really grew a strong and independent testimony, I just assumed it was true.
In High-school I didn't have many LDS friends. None of the youth in my ward were my age-- they were either older or younger by a year or two. I began dating at the early age of 13, and when I was 15 I found myself in a serious relationship with a guy I thought was my whole world. I was still going to church, and I even got my boyfriend to come to church with me.
The relationship I had found myself in was unhealthy, co-dependent and abusive. But I loved him. I loved him more than anyone or anything else. So I started to blame others. I blamed my parents and I blamed God. I blamed God for not being there for me. I blamed God for making my boyfriend depressed and mean. I blamed God for getting me into this relationship. I blamed God for not rescuing me. I blamed God for my own mistakes, and my own sins. I couldn't understand how God could exist when there was so much sadness, when there was so much hate, when there were so many bad things happening not only directly to me in my life but in the world as a whole.
So I stopped going to church. I found the people there naive, and judgmental. When in reality I was the naive and judgmental one. When I stopped attending church, there were three occasions when members would leave church halfway through the 3 hour service, drive to my house and talk to me. They told me about their hard times, and the struggles that they were going through and that it was their faith that was holding them together.
But their words couldn't penetrate my hardened heart. I lied to them, as I was lying to myself. I was angry with them for coming into my home and trying to convince me that the Church was true. I was convinced that my mom had sent them, that they were nothing but mere mouthpieces for my concerned and emotional mother. Every time someone would stop by to see me, I would put up a wall and pretend like everything was okay, but the moment they left and I was alone again I broke down and cried. My heart was hardened but parts of my inner being were beginning to crumble, and I knew I needed help.
And then help came in the form of Wilderness.
I was sent to a Wilderness therapy program in Utah. And all I felt leaving my house was peace. It was the help I needed to free myself from the relationship and to find myself again.
The first night I felt lost, and abandoned yet had an odd sense of hope that I hadn't had in quite a long time. I couldn't sleep so I decided to pray. My first prayer in many months. I wasn't sure if God would listen, or even if he cared. But I might as well give it a shot. So I cried my heart out to the Lord. I asked him to keep my boyfriend safe, and to keep me safe and to help me get through this whole situation. After I said amen, I slept peacefully for the one of the first times in many weeks.
I spent 72 days in Wilderness, and I had started to rediscover my faith. My therapist brought me a miniature book of Mormon, but I wasn't interested in reading it. So I let it collect dirt. My therapist would bring me different talks from Prophets and Apostles(normally a therapist wouldn't do this, but I had asked him to, since I wanted to find out if the church was true). As I would sit on the ground next to my therapist, discussing things like repentance and forgiveness and so on, I felt my non-existent testimony starting to build. Through prayer I felt God's presence--so I knew God was real. But I wasn't 100% sure I wanted to be Mormon.
As Wilderness came to an end and my new journey to boarding school began, my faith was small like a tree seed which had just sprouted above the ground, very fragile and easily destroyed.
When I embarked on my way to boarding school in Montana, my thoughts were that the church just wasn't right for me, and that I didn't want to be LDS just because my parents wanted me to. But as time went on I had the desire to go back, and at this point I hadn't been back to church in about a year. But now I was in Boarding school, and I would have to get "Treatment Team" (my therapist and school leaders) to approve of me going to Church alone, and without their supervision, along with the dilemma of not knowing anyone to drive me there.
My request was approved, and my mother had made a lot of calls to the ward in Kalispell, Montana to find someone that could drive me to church every Sunday.
Sister Jenny Oliverson is Why I stay.
She and her family would drive up to the middle of no where to pick me up from my school, and drive me to Church. She could have judged me for being in a Therapeutic Boarding School, and asked me what it was I had done to wind up there, but instead she smiled, and loved me right away and let me open up to her in my own time. She was a woman who didn't come from much, she had a family of 5 children, who lived in a simple 2 story home that they had built themselves. She wore simple dresses that I could have seen my Grandma wearing. She was not noticeable outwardly beautiful by the worlds standards but she had the most beautiful soul I have ever met. She gave of herself, when she had hard to nothing. She would drive to pick me up when he car was breaking. She made me part of her family without hesitation, and I even went to her children's birthday parties, or family dinners (when approved by my school). In my eyes, she was my savior, she was and is the most Christ-Like women I have ever met. And because of her, my love for the Gospel returned.
One day during church, she stopped me in the hallway to speak to me. She told me she loved me like a daughter and began to cry. She looked down at her hand and began to take the CTR ring off her finer. She held it in her hand and told me to take it as she explained it was her Grandmothers CTR ring, made of sterling silver and inlay-ed with diamonds. I told her I could not accept it, and that it was not mine to take. But she wouldn't let me say no for an answer. I cried and we hugged, I was mystified at how generous and loving this woman was to me when I had done nothing special to deserve her kind and caring heart.
When I left Montana, I finally had a testimony of the Gospel. I finally new that this Church and the Gospel of Jesus Christ is True. The best way I can describe how I finally felt like I knew the Gospel was true is because every Sunday I was excited and grateful to be attending church. Going to Church brought me incredible happiness and peace, more peace than I have found anywhere else.
And that peace and happiness is why I stay.
My testimony and Faith have continued to grow and strengthen as time has gone on. And my faith is still growing stronger each and every day. Life has certainly not been easy for me, and has throw me many curve balls, and I've many many mistakes. But I stay because the Gospel is my foundation. I know I can always come back to it, I know that my happiness and peace comes from it, and I know that it is true. And I cannot deny that I know it.
To quote Tyler Seamons "I acknowledge that any organization, even Christ’s organization on the earth, is made up of men, fallible men. I acknowledge that histories are sometimes cloudy and circumstances are almost unrelatable to just a hundred years later. I acknowledge the stumbling and the reaching and the mistakes of the organization, without detracting from the truth that this is God’s church, that I know it, and that He knows I know it."
If you are a believer, and want to share why you stay, use #whyIstay when you share